Quantum Cloud

Antony Gormley, 1999

Greenwich Peninsula (North Greenwich tube)

Quantum Cloud is that strange-looking sculpture very close to the Dome which, if you first view it in winter from a distance you might mistake for a very odd tree.

It’s Antony Gormley’s tallest structure – 30m high – and yes, that IS taller than The Angel of the North (and by the way, Ken – we don’t NEED an ‘Angel of the South’ to let people know when they’ve reached London.)

It took months of arguing in our household to decide whether we could see a shadowy human figure depicted in the centre of this ovoid tree of what looks suspiciously like scaffolding bars, but there IS actually ‘someone’ in there – Gormley himself, apparently.

It’s all very clever stuff, based on algebra,where he programmed the shape of his own body into a computer, then created a random ‘cloud’ of squared bars of galvanised steel around it. The way the 20m figure is created is merely by having a greater density of the bits of metal welded together in the centre. At some angles the figure is quite clear, at others it just looks like a mass of tangled TV aerials, an ambiguity that Gormley intended, according to his artist’s statement at the time. The outer antennae are supposed to move with the wind, but I’ve never noticed.

Our Cloud at Greenwich is one of at least 11 different Quantum Clouds, I believe, with figures in various positions, but Gormley’s website despite clearly having spent considerably more cash than I have on this one, is not an awful lot easier to navigate around and eventually I gave up trying to find any more about it. I got the feeling from his statement that the one on the Peninsula was the first, but ultimately I guess I don’t really care. It’s one of my favourite sculptures in the area – or, indeed at all. It’s only when you get near to it (you can’t get really close as it’s slightly offshore) that you can really see how clever it is to work at so many different levels and angles.

Hooray for Public Art.


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